The Oak Park and River Forest High School softball team has won the last two Class 4A state championships primarily with dominant pitching. While the pitching has been solid this spring, the Huskies’ offense has been spectacular with a team batting average over .400 and a program-record 62 home runs during the regular season.
OPRF put on another hitting display in a 14-2 win in five innings over visiting Lane Tech in a Class 4A regional final Saturday afternoon.
“We saw Lane play on Wednesday and we knew they were a good team,” OPRF coach Mel Kolbusz said. “They’re the city champions. We tried to warn our girls and compared them to LyonsTownship. We took this game seriously and got the job done.”
Annie Deamer-Nagle led OPRF with two homers and four RBIs as she continued to set the tone for the Huskies from the leadoff spot.
“Annie was in the ninth spot at the start of the year,” Kolbusz said. “But then we got into a bit of a slump and moved her to leadoff. She’s been thriving there for us.”
In the first inning, Deamer-Nagle hit a home run and Fiona Girardot added another solo homer to give OPRF a 2-0 lead.
“Annie had a great day today,” OPRF shortstop Maeve Nelson said. “She did a good job from the ninth spot in turning over the lineup, but she brings a lot of fire to the top of the order. She’s a force to be reckoned with and picks up our mood.”
Lane Tech shortstop Karli Spaid clubbed a two-run homer off Taylor Divello in the top of the third to even the score at 2-2
“Their shortstop could play on our team,” Kolbusz said. “She’s an excellent player. I wasn’t scared after they tied the score, but I told our kids let’s get this thing going and we kicked it into gear.”
The Huskies put the game away in the third inning by scoring 11 runs. Deamer-Nagle’s second homer (a two-run shot), RBI doubles by Girardot and Olivia Glass, a two-run RBI triple by Maddie Grant, and a grand slam by Mary Jones fueled the scoring barrage.
“I was a little nervous when they tied the game up,” said Nelson, a Northwestern signee. “But I think our perseverance and hard work came through in scoring all those runs in our half.”
The emergence of Jones this season has been notable. The junior right fielder has brought a powerful bat to an already potent varsity lineup this season.
“Mary is a dynamite when she’s batting,” Kolbusz said. “When the ball hits her bat, it could explode. She has quick hands. When she gets a hold of one, it’s crushed.”
Deamer-Nagle’s RBI double in the fourth concluded the scoring. She finished with three hits, while Girardot and Glass had two hits apiece.
Divello went five innings for OPRF, allowing two runs and five hits with four strikeouts. Heading into sectional play, Kolbusz feels his pitching staff is up to the task.
“Taylor pitched an excellent game,” he said. “The homer she gave up, that kid would’ve hit that off anyone because she’s that good.
“We also have Cassie (Metzger) and Zoe (Prouty), plus we could use Maeve (Nelson) in a closing situation. Shutouts are obviously nice, but if we can keep opponents within range where our bats can cover, we’re in good shape.”
The players are also confident as the Huskies attempt to accomplish their primary goal of winning a third straight state title.
“We’ve played well the last few weeks,” Deamer-Nagle said. “We’ve always had good hitting, but this year our bats are really shining. We’ve done lot of good things lately and we want to keep going.”
The Huskies take on Maine South Wednesday, May 30 (4:30p.m.) in the Niles West Sectional semifinals. York plays Whitney Young in the other semifinal. The winners meet on Saturday, June 2 at 11 a.m. with the sectional championship at stake.